People in mood of crisis, insecurity on May Day 2002
Stabroek News
May 1, 2002

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General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) Lincoln Lewis has posited that May Day 2002 has found the country's workers in a mood of crisis and insecurity.

According to Lewis in his May Day message, the "failure of the economy to generate jobs for school leavers and others is creating battalions of new unemployed which are adding to the already large army of despairing Guyanese who cannot find a job."

Noting that foreign and local investments were supposed to take care of that problem, Lewis declared "it has not happened."

On the contrary, according to the GPSU executive, many new investments are retrenching and one big foreign company wants to lay off over 850 persons in the bauxite industry.

This vast army, Lewis argued, is contributing to low wages and a diminished struggle for trade unionism because the workers see thousands of unemployed knocking at doors for jobs. He said further that this fear and insecurity are very prevalent in the workplace and the work of the trade union organisers is even more difficult.

The GTUC general secretary also raised the issue of a tough tax burden facing the workers and attributed this to the "deliberate, stubborn refusal by the government to raise the tax threshold which has been frozen at $18,000 per month for over four years."

Lewis described this as a callous approach to the working people which has now created a situation where the PAYE taxpayers are paying more income tax than all the companies combined since 2001.

He said that according to the budget the PAYE figure was expected to be $8.2 billion while for the companies it was projected at $7.9 billion.

"The burden of income tax is falling more and more on the backs of the working people in a calculated and deliberate programme of the government," Lewis charged.

He remarked that the workers know that farmers are getting a break from the government and this is welcome, and it is also known that many businesses get tax breaks all the time to encourage investment.

However, Lewis stated, the workers also know of massive tax evasion and tax fraud. He said too that the workers "know that in 2002 the government plans to waste over $5 billion in a (Treasury Bill sale) which has gone on for years under the guise of some flimsy economic policy."

Lewis said that workers have found that between 2000 and 2002, electricity rates have increased by more than 60% and that has kept mounting.

According to him, the agreement for the Guyana Power and Light company will be recorded in history as the worst deal ever concocted by a government and he demanded that those that "orchestrated this travesty must fix it immediately."

Observing that the situation looks bleak and many are leaving the country while more want to go, Lewis asserted that all is not lost for the workers with struggle and determination.